Janet Bergstrom, excerpt from "The Theater of Everyday Life", Camera Obscura No 18, Sept. 1988 


The position of the camera throughout the film, whether still or moving, insists in a separation between the filmmaker and the sights that catch her eye, that she wants to collect and bring home. The filmmaker is only integrated into the narrative as separate: we never see her image, but her presence as a foreigner is acknowledged by people's attitude toward the camera (seemingly curious, interested) and by the explanations that are given, at several points, of things we see. The film pays as much attention to things with an undisclosed meaning as it does to a universalizing aspect - human gestures and facial expressions that are understood "directly," as if no translation is necessary. In other words, the film underscores our cultural difference as observers, yet links us to something we share with these people. The China that Ottinger shows us is an example in which social signs are not oppressive, especially because we see artistic expression in all facets of daily life. This is the principle of selection used in the film, whence its title: China: The Arts, Everyday Life. This is the privilege of the visitor: to be able to see another culture selectively, in this instance, as a "real" example of unoppressed Difference.